The British Herpetological Society

The Herpetological Journal is the Society's prestigious quarterly scientific journal. Articles are listed in Biological Abstracts, Current Awareness in Biological Sciences,Current Contents, Science Citation Index, and Zoological Record.

 ISSN 0268-0130

2020 Impact Factor for the Herpetological Journal is 0.862

pdf 08. Habitat use by grass snakes and three sympatric lizard species on lowland heath managed using ‘conservation grazing’


Open Access

pp. 131-138

Authors: Christopher J. Reading & Gabriela M. Jofré

Abstract: Cattle grazing is being used increasingly by landowners and statutory conservation bodies to manage heathlands in parts of mainland Europe and in the UK, where it is called ‘conservation grazing’. Between 2010 and 2013, cattle were excluded from six hectares of lowland heath, in southern England, that had been subject to annual summer cattle grazing between May 1997 and autumn 2009. Changes in grass snake Natrix natrix, common lizard Zootoca vivipara, slow worm Anguis fragilis and sand lizard Lacerta agilis numbers were recorded annually in the ungrazed area and in a four hectare area of heathland adjacent to it that continued to be grazed. The number of grass snake, common lizard and slow worm sightings were significantly higher in the ungrazed heath than the grazed heath and were associated with increased habitat structure, resulting principally from increased height and cover of grasses, particularly Molinia caerulea. Conversely, there was no significant difference in the number of adult sand lizard sightings between the grazed and ungrazed heath though sighting frequency was inversely correlated with both grass and grass litter cover. Our results suggest that the use of cattle grazing as a management tool on lowland heath is detrimental to grass snake, slow worm and common lizard populations but may be less so to adult sand lizards. Although newborn slow worms and common lizards were observed throughout the study area, significantly fewer were found in the grazed areas than the ungrazed areas. The absence of newborn grass snakes and sand lizards in the grazed areas suggests that successful breeding had not occurred in these areas.

Key words: Anguis fragilis, Calluna vulgaris, cattle grazing, habitat structure, Lacerta agilis, Molinia caerulea, Natrix natrix, Zootoca vivipara,

Download Access:

The latest 8 issues can be downloaded when logged in with a Herpetological Journal subscription membership.

Individual articles can be purchased for download.

Older issues and occasional Open Access articles are available for public download


For further information and submission guidelines please see our Journal Instructions to Authors

pdfBHS Ethics Policy


Please note that as from Volume 31 Number 1 (January 2021) on, the Herpetological Journal will be available as an online publication only - the last print edition will be Volume 30 Number 4.   

Aligning with this change, it is now no longer possible to purchase a subscription that includes a print copy of the HJ.  All members who have existing HJ print subscriptions that remain active as at end June 2020 will receive the full four 2020 print editions.  New subscribers or renewals after this time will only have option to subscribe to the online only subscription package.  Subscription pricing has been amended to reflect the content changes.